“Money, Materialism, the Love of Money, and the Biblical Revelation,” by Andrew J. Schatkin

“Money, Materialism, the Love of Money, and the Biblical Revelation,” by Andrew J. Schatkin

If there were to be any definition and present philosophical basis of American, if not Western, culture it is consumerism, and the acquisition of material goods, materialism, purchasing the next pair of shoes and buying, if possible, a Lexus or BMW. American society, if it has any philosophical or intellectual basis, at this time it is greed and getting. This is how our society measures success although it may give lip service to the Mother Teresas of the world; the Albert Schweitzers of the world; the Salvation Army; and Doctors without Borders. But I repeat that honor and notice is facial, and I think lip service and the real respect is given to power and money and to acquiring power and money.

The Christian and Christianity take a different position and understanding about money and goods and I would like take a walk, so to speak, through the words of Holy Scripture on this issue and on the idea, perhaps I think mistaken, entertained
by the secular society that money is the sole benchmark and criterion of success. Let me take a look at the gospel of Matthew. In Matthew 6:24, Jesus makes the very clear statement concerning the world’s worship of money with the statement you cannot serve two masters and you cannot serve God and Man at the same time. In Matthew 10:5, Jesus cautions the disciples to heal the sick; raise the dead; cleanse lepers; cast out demons; and to take no pay. Again, Jesus makes clear here his view of money and what we should do with our work; i.e., our lives are to be spent on works of charity without pay. In Matthew 16:26, Jesus cautions that if a man gains the whole world, he forfeits his life; it is a warning about wealth acquisition and the ultimate loss of your eternal life and soul.

In Matthew 19:23-24, Jesus warns that it will be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. See also: Matthew 21:12 (on driving out the money changers from the Temple); Mark 8:36 (gain the world and forfeit your life); Mark 6:8 (disciples told to take no money on their journey of preaching and healing); Mark10:17 (rich young man told to sell all his money and possessions if he would be perfect and walks away sorrowing since he cannot do this); and Mark 14:10 (Judas promised money).

Let us now take a look at some passages in Luke: Luke 6:20 (the poor are pronounced blessed); Luke 6:24 (woe unto you who are rich for you have received your consolation; Luke 9:1-3 (disciples cautioned to take no money with them on their journey); Luke 12:32 (disciples told to sell their possessions and give alms); Luke 16:13 (cannot serve and mammon); Luke 16:19 (Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus); Luke 19:9 and John 2:14-159 (money changers driven from temple).

We have looked at the gospel on Jesus’s view of money and its value which we see he does not regard highly. Let me now look at the Epistles of Paul on money. In I Cor 5:9, Jesus says not to associate with the greedy. In Cor 6:9, St. Paul cautions the greedy will not inherit the kingdom of heaven. Also, II Cor. 8:8 (Jesus though he was rich became poor for your sake so that by his poverty you might become rich). In Col 3:5, Paul advises to put to death covetousness. In 1 Tim 2:8, Paul cautions that women should not adorn themselves with costly attire. In I Tim 3:3, St. Paul states that the Bishop should be no lover of money. In Tim 3:8, Paul states that the deacons should not be greedy for gain. In I Tim 6:10, Paul states unequivocally that the love of money is the root of all evil. In I Tim 6:17, Paul says the rich in this world are charged not to be haughty and charges them to be rich in good deeds, and liberal and generous, laying good foundation for the future. In II Tim 3:3, Paul cautions that in the last days men will be lovers of self and money.

The Epistle of James is particularly helpful on the proper Christian understanding of money. In James 1:9-10, James says the rich will pass away in his humiliation and the rich man will fade away in the midst of his pursuits. In James 2:1-7, James speak of the poor man in shabby clothes coming into the assembly and the rich man coming into the assembly with fine clothing and cautions not to make that distinction and goes on to state that he has chosen the poor to be rich in faith and then states that the rich oppress you and drag you into court. James, in James 5:1-5, tells the rich to howl for their miseries that are coming upon them. In I Peter 2:3, Peter speaks of the greed of false prophets and false teachers. See also II Peter 2:14-16, where the apostle speak of hearts trained in greed.

What then are we to make of the gospel and Christian view of money and its value? There is and can be no doubt upon review of the sayings of Christ in this respect and what Paul, James and Peter have to say that for the Christian money, greed, acquisition and wealth are not only secondary but have no part to play in the Christian life.

This mild analysis and interpretation of these passages reveals it would appear that money is not only secondary and no factor in the Christian life, but is actually an evil and is something none of us should embrace as a life goal and value. Jesus, Paul, James, and, Peter urge us to reject and discount riches and wealth as something we should value or have concern for. The Christian view of wealth and money as seen and reflected in this review and analysis of the sayings of Jesus and the statements of St. Paul, St. Peter, and James urge us to reject wealth and money as a guide. Given the difficulty of life in this world and the economic struggle for many, if not all, persons, this view and understanding of money as a goal, and as a factor is an incredibly difficult goal and demand and, like many of the sayings of Christ, his commands challenge us all to the higher moral bar, whether it is the command to love your enemy; pray for those who persecute you; making anger akin of murder; lust to adultery; or the statement that the poor and poor in spirit are blessed. Once again, we are told to do the impossible, only possible with the aid of the faith, love, and mercy of Christ.